When Rajon Rondo went through a two-week quarantine at home, got on a plane to leave his family and head for one of the biggest hotspots of our current global pandemic, and sat in his hotel room to quarantine or another 36 hours — while getting coronavirus tests the whole time — he probably expected to be with his Lakers teammates for longer than two days after finishing his isolation.
But thanks to a right thumb fracture that he sustained in the Lakers’ second group practice of the restart that will sideline him for 6-8 weeks, Rondo will instead have to leave the bubble again to undergo surgery, and then start a rehab process on his own before he’s able to rejoin his team. Whatever one thinks of Rondo’s value to the Lakers on the court, on a human level, we all can understand how devastating this must be.
As a result of that tough situation, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel wants Rondo to take a break, and just focus on getting better.
“I personally want him to just exhale a little bit,” Vogel said on a Zoom video conference with reporters on Monday.
When Rondo is ready, though, Vogel does have an open job for him until he can get back out on the floor, or even before he gets into the bubble. Vogel described how assistant coach Lionel Hollins — who did not travel with the team due to health risk — as well as members of his video staff and Lakers Senior Basketball Advisor Kurt Rambis have watched practices and helped in coaches meetings using Zoom, and how collaborative that process has been so far.
“I definitely will offer that type of participation to Rajon if that’s something he’s interested in,” Vogel said.
And when Rondo gets back into the bubble at Disney World, even if he’s not ready to get on the court yet, his teammates still think he can help.
“It’s a blow, but not as big of a blow because of how much he helps us on the sideline and coaching-wise. I know he’ll still be there, he’ll still help coach and teach,” said Lakers guard Danny Green, even if he added that “it would be great to have (Rondo) on the floor playmaking, making plays and being that floor general.”
Rondo presumably won’t be able to do that for a while, but a role on the coaching staff is something that has honestly has seemed like a good fit for him for a while. Teammate LeBron James has frequently raved about how Rondo is one of the few players with a basketball brain on par with his own — no small compliment — and countless Lakers have discussed how much Rondo’s guidance has helped them over the last several years. He may not be as effective on the court as he used to be, but he genuinely seems like he could be an asset in this role at the very least.
But it’s also well-known that Rondo is also about as tough as NBA players come. This is a guy that once played 12 minutes of a playoff game on a torn ACL. He was additionally in great shape heading into the NBA restart, with one anonymous member of the coaching saying Rondo looked “like he’s 21 years old again” during the team’s ramp-up period at home. He also made waves when video of his boxing routine went viral. Other than his now-broken thumb, Rondo was clearly ready to play.
“We were all very impressed with how his body looked,” Vogel said on Monday. “It was clear that he worked his tail off over the quarantine to stay in great shape.”
It’s given his teammates faith that Rondo will be ready to contribute when he returns to the court.
“We know he’ll be back in 6-8 weeks, hopefully sooner than that,” Green said. “He’ll be back better than ever. Because he was in great shape before he got injured.”
Until then, though, Vogel will be happy to put Rondo’s world-renowned basketball mind to good use — via video calls and on the sidelines — when he’s ready.